IFLA Trend Report: riding the waves or caught in the tide

From privacy and surveillance to hyper-connectivity, Marydee Ojala encourages librarians everywhere to respond to IFLA's "tremendously important" report.

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It's important to note that the experts were not librarians. They were social scientists, economists, business leaders, education specialists, legal experts, and technologists. The chairman of ICANN; the director of the Global Libraries Development Programme, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the director of the Internet & American Life Project, Pew Research Center; the legal director, copyright, Google Inc; and a presenter from BBC Click were among the thought leaders.

Colliding trends

Where libraries are concerned, it's the collision of the trends with each other and with library values that present interesting, challenging and potentially frightening future scenarios. Advancements in technology raise concerns about privacy and the perception of libraries as safe places. Read a print book and the publisher knows nothing about your reading behavior, but with an ebook, the publisher knows how fast you read, what parts you skip, what you highlight, and what terms you use to search for a book. Publishers can change the text in the book without your being aware it's happening. The amount of information that can, and is, being collected, not only from ebooks but also from other information mining activities, raises questions about who profits from using this data.

When it comes to research, Parent wondered if libraries can actually deliver different vehicles for serendipitous discovery if everyone researches using a web search engine. Could the library community build a competing search algorithm to the likes of Google, she wondered.

Conversations among International Internet Librarians

The report, according to Parent, is just a starting point designed to begin a conversation within the IFLA community. She encourages the library community to consider the trends and potential collisions, as well as how they might affect individual library environments. IFLA members are diverse and likely to have different views on how these trends might shape their future. Thus, it’s important to add the voice of the members to the report, according to Jennefer Nicholson, IFLA secretary general: "Without your input, it’s just another report."

During Internet Librarian International, we have the opportunity to talk about some of the trends identified by IFLA and discuss how they affect us in our various countries and work environments. It's the perfect venue to extend the conversation beyond IFLA channels into a more generalised information community.

Marydee Ojala is Editor-in-Chief of Online Searcher: Information Discovery, Technology, Strategies for Information Professionals and is a frequent speaker at international conferences.  She is Co-Chair of Internet Librarian International.

Image courtesy of docoverachiever via Flickr.

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